The Norwegian plastics industry has long lagged behind its neighbours when it comes to automation and high-tech solutions. This is particularly clear from production volumes, which are currently just one-quarter of those in Sweden.
"When major raw material producers Borealis, Hydro Polymers and Jotun Polymers decided to sell their operations in Norway, the plastics industry here lost a lot of support. It created a vacuum which we've struggled with ever since," says Asle Isaksen, who is also editor-in-chief of trade publication Plastforum NO.
"However, in recent years awareness relating to automation has risen considerably. The plastics industry can now see a great chance to compete with the whole world, and primarily the Baltic states."
The industry's increased focus on automation was made very clear during Polymer Days on 15-16 September. For the past 10 years the conference has been organised by trade publication Plastforum NO.
"Large parts of the conference programme comprised lectures and seminars about automation and robotisation. There is great interest out there, with more and more companies wanting to streamline their production," says Asle Isaksen.
One of the major new developments at the conference was German industrial group KraussMaffei's new LFI (Long Fibre Injection) technology. This enables serial production of fibre-reinforced lightweight components and is used primarily in the automotive industry.
"LFI technology makes the process more profitable as subsequent treatment of the parts is not necessary," says Erich Fries, Business Unit Manager at KraussMaffei.
"The technology makes it possible to produce high-strength components simply and economically, with low weight, high dimension stability and precision. It also allows great variation in the component's construction and design."
LFI technology is not only limited to automotive applications, but can also be used in construction for making door modules, for example.